At 100 I shall be a marvellous artist

Cast several lines and hopefully despite turbulent weather you’ll have a catch!

“From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. but all I have done before the the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokosai, but today I sign my self ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.” Hokusai

Every time I come across this quote it makes me happy.  It reminds me that drawing and painting are interests where the scope for improvement and learning is endless.  And when I came across it again recently it helped me redouble my efforts in thinking up ways to get rid of an old friend, who has overstayed his visit – Procrastination.  While I may not be sitting down to draw or paint everyday these are activities I think about daily, more so on days when I dont pick up that pen or brush.  I’ve been feeling guilty.  I believe both are common when you’re procrastinating.

31 Emily O'Marra

I’m putting up a fight and trying to push my friend out the door.  I’ve added two more portraits to Julia Kay’s portrait party collection.  Came across a post on Lines and Colors about a new weekly column on drawing on NY Times that I hope to follow.  There are some exercises on colour and values that are awaiting attention.  I hope one/all of these will make me forget the reasons that’ve kept this friend here.  Another friend earlier today told me to get off the pity potty and get on with it!  So here I am with this drawing from a couple of days back and the long overdue post.


See Sorolla at the Hispanic Society of America

After admiring paintings by Sovek on the web I looked him up and discovered a website full of beautiful paintings and useful information and lessons for an artist. And when sifting through the material I discovered that Sovek was a fan of Sorolla. I read the article he’d written on him and like most others who see Sorolla’s work had fallen in love with it.


Later I discovered that books with his work were out of print and available only at exorbitant prices.  There was hardly any of his work to be seen on the web.  A couple of years back his work started getting more visible on the net and now you can find high res images at several locations.  Then there was the retrospective at the Museo Nacional del Prado last year.

I couldn’t  see the exhibition but with the help of my sisters I had the catalogue in hand by December last year.

Exhibition Catalogue

And then there was this year.  An unbelievably exciting treat lay in store for me.  I got to see Sorolla’s work IRL!  In my afternoon class at the league I was told both by Peter Homitzky and a fellow student, Mary about Joaquin Sorolla paintings at the Hispanic Society of America’s Museum in Harlem.  The paintings that had been out on loan for three years to the Museo del Prado had recently returned.  I couldn’t believe that the paintings had been in the city all along!!  And I couldn’t wait to go see it in person.

Visions of Spain

His series of 14 paintings, Visions of Spain are now installed in a separate gallery adjacent to the main one.  The canvases are huge and the paintings marvelous.  You can easily see why he’s known as the Painter of Light.  It was a treat to be able to view the works at leisure without waiting or feeling rushed as you would if you were making someone else wait.  There were just one other group of people at the Museum that Saturday.  I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity.  The entry is free and while the collection is small it is definitely worth a visit and if you’re a Sorolla fan it is a must.  And if you havent seen enough of Sorolla’s work you can have a look at it online here.

An interesting tidbit that Peter Homitzky shared with us in class was that he’d actually worked on restoring one of Joaquin Sorolla’s paintings!  I also had the opportunity to go through his copy of the catalogue printed during the 1989  Sorolla retrospective held in the IBM building.

Follow this link for a great collection of his work on the Artchive archives.

At the Art Students League once more

I’m back again at the Art Students League after a 2 yr break. This time instead of the usual evening class I’ve signed up for one in the morning with Mary Beth McKenzie and in the afternoon with Peter Homitzky.  Time is moving along swiftly. The morning class is in a small studio packed with easels forming two semi circles around the two models and poses are held for two weeks. The afternoon class is in a much larger studio also with two set ups, one for still life and one a model.

I now have lots of sketches, gesture drawings from both classes and today I did several on large newsprint. I found that having worked on smaller sizes these past two weeks, working big was very difficult!! I wish these skills could be like riding a bicycle, once learnt never forgotten!

mbm - 4 - wip 5

The piece above is where the painting is at after 5 days. You can see the progress pics below.   One of things that Mary Beth reminded me to do was to keep making corrections at every stage.   She was amused when I said that I found it difficult the longer I’d spent on the painting and said that it was common for an artist to be in denial but to overcome that and step in and make those corrections.   As that had been my first day with this painting I had no qualms enthusiastically jumping back in and making corrections.  Then I spent a few more days on it and up until yesterday I was in denial and kept pretending I wasn’t by making tiny adjustments.  I didn’t want to make the required drastic corrections.  Today with the teacher in class I decided I might as well make them before they get pointed out to me 😛  And there were many to make. For example the white patch just below the eye was where the previous eye was painted!!  This change allowed me to make the nose longer : )  I do actually like it like this, corrections and all, more than the over scumbled stage it was at before. I could keep going in this manner but we have one more day left in this two week long pose.

This is the 4th piece that I’ve worked on in the morning class.  For the first 3 paintings,  I spent 4 days and one of those will remain incomplete as it was based on a substitute model we ended up having for just a day.

Found out today that one more of Mary Beth’s monotypes has been acquired by the Met bringing her count with them to 19 monotypes, 3 paintings and a few prints.  Wow!!

mbm - 4 - wipmbm - 4 - wip 2mbm - 4 - wip 3mbm - 4 - wip 4

In Peter Homitzky’s class instead of working on still life compositions as I had planned I went for the model.   We have a really tall Russian model whose size just doesn’t seem to fit into any sized page I start her on.  You can see what I mean quite clearly in the second piece where she grew beyond the rectangle space I’d demarcated for the painting.  I liked the effect of her feet sticking out and decided to leave it as it is.  Used two values mostly for the areas in light and shadow as an experiment.

I can see that amongst other things I have to improve my painting planning and measurement skills.  Peter also said that I should plan the colours that I intend to use in a painting before I start and also about making thumbnail sketches for selecting a composition and improving those skills too.

homitzky - 4 - wip 2homitzky - 3 - wip 2

I had initially decided to use oils in the morning class and acrylics in the afternoon. I found that I was struggling with the Grumbacher acrylics that I had picked up mostly because of its liquid consistency. The first Homitzky piece here was made using acrylics. When Peter found me struggling he asked me to switch to oils and now I’m using oils in both the classes and brought the acrylics back home with me today. He related the story of how acrylic paints were developed for murals by the Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros and brought by him to America. A point it seems forgotten as some fine art paint company stepped in an applied for the patent in the US back around then in the 50’s. He is of the opinion that that’s where they were and still are best used.  I do enjoy the talking and interaction with the teacher in this class.

I’m updating a set on flickr with this months output, scribbles and all.


17 raena

Read about a couple of new online sketch apps this evening – Harmony and Scribbler.  They’re a variation of the kinds that I’d tried earlier.  The difference here is that they insert some patterns, shadings on their own to your lines and so you’re not completely in control.  I found Harmony easier to use.

16 Bavaroland

The doodles immediately below were made with my mac trackpad and started their lives as one long wavy line going back and forth till I could see a shape in it and then a couple of minutes trying to bring that out. Try them you wont regret it.  In some ways better than scribbling in the margin of the paper or magazine while you’re talking on the phone.  The two portraits were made using photo references and a wacom tablet.

in the palm of my hand - harmony 3horse - harmony 1puppy - harmony 2

The last one is the piece I made to try out Scribbler. Head on there and give them a whirl. They’re fun to use and you wont regret it!


SoFoBoMo 2010 is here!

I’ve signed up for SoFoBoMo again!   Now all I have to do is select a 31 day period between June and July and click some pics.   I’m looking forward to it but have yet to fine tune the subject!!   It’s nice to have a project and a deadline, one that I cannot change!

Pony Rides

You can see last years books here – all participants and mine : ).  It’s an interesting project to sign up for and you’ll learn a lot.   It’s open to everybody and has very simple rules – 31 days, 35 pics and 1 pdf.  So check it out, sign up and join me!

Galle Fort

Sketching at the Galle Fort

horse taking a breather between rides

Sketching is so much more fun when you have company.   I’d got so rusty even with drawing as paint is a much more forgiving medium and you can keep going over something till you fix it. Sketching is even tougher having to capture a scene quickly or you have to tackle perspective!!!  I’m shaky on both but some of it is coming back….. slowly!!  And I had lots of fun.

We had a friend visiting who keeps a record of his travels through sketches in small and mid-sized journals.  They’re usually of buildings, seascapes or landscapes.  With me, he is willing to take a break from his usual subjects and occasionally try some of mine.  When he’d last visited us we were based in Dhaka.  We chose the local wholesale market on the banks of the Buri Ganga to sketch and almost created a riot there among the curious street urchins.  This visit we went to the Galle Fort and while people were curious we didn’t draw a crowd which was nice as we could get on with the sketching.

dutch church

All 3 sketches were made while sightseeing at the Galle Fort.   The horse or is it a pony (??)  was being given a break in between rides and was busy chomping down on grass.  We plonked ourselves down beside him to sketch.  He left quickly or so it seemed to find his next ride and we moved on to find ourselves something that would hold a pose a while longer.  The Dutch Church seemed like a good subject as it was beautiful and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  I found it difficult to work on values with the pen and the perspective is wonky.   The last is a sketch of a cow though it appears to be a mother and child pose : )   The cow moved it’s head when i was half way for the first one and I felt more confident after the first attempt to try a quick second sketch at the back.   And that heart shape was there on her head though it looks a bit foolish in my sketch.



KMP 37/100 - final

Boredom. Loneliness. Anonymity.  All the things we’ve learnt to avoid and in the process lost our ability to spend time on our own with just our thoughts for company.   I found that journaling helped me get into the mode where I would spend time thinking about things.  I’m a product of our time and cannot get away from the Net for long.  It’s long arms pull me back and hold me closer every time I try.   6 months ago or so I did 12 weeks of the morning* pages once more and came across this very interesting article on Solitude, why it is important and an equally interesting interview (audio) with the author based on this article.  A must read!

What does the contemporary self want? The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge — broadband tipping the Web from text to image, social-networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider — the two cultures betray a common impulse. Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves — by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. William Deresiewicz.   

Read his full article “End of Solitude

And hear his interview based on this article.

* When i did the morning pages the first time I wrote in a file on my computer when I could and it was mostly last thing at night.  The second time around I tried to follow the rules wrote long hand and on most days managed to write first thing in the morning.  I haven’t as yet managed to go back in and separate the nuggets of info from the drivel.

Stages that the painting went through over 3 sessions.

KMP 37/100 KMP 37/100 - wip

KMP 37/100KMP 37/100 - final

Oil on Canvas.

Update : June 11, 2010 : And a song by Suzanne Vega to go with the title of this post.

Grandparents and painting despite a never ending supply of excuses!

These are part of the “starts” that I’ve been working on lately, numbered 35 and 36.   There is a faint resemblance to my parents but none to my nephew.  But then that wasn’t my main aim in this exercise and with each passing piece I am able to get away from trying to work towards likeness alone.  I’m still working hard at trying to give the figures form.  For example the baby in the top painting has more form than in the one that I’d painted earlier.

KMP 36/100

Haven’t painted as much as I wanted to lately.  My current excuses are

  • that April has been a busy month with family and friends visiting.
  • it’s been incredibly hot and humid in Colombo.  The turpentine prevents me from using the air-conditioning and the sweat baths discourage me from painting when the weather is so.  I’m already on two showers a day and cannot imagine having a 3rd!
  • I can’t paint until my studio is organised and all my books sorted out!

I’m surprised I even paint at all!

KMP 35/100

KMP’s are skill building exercises advised by Kevin Macpherson in his book Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color. I started these in 2007 and am continuing with it in 2010. If you want to know more about this set of exercises click here.

Postponement of gratification

The title for this post is lifted from Robert Genn’s recent letter on Chunking. I’ve put below a quote from it.

Understanding and learning worthwhile new skills……… requires focus, repetition, a willingness to apply self-determined rules, and the postponement of gratification

KMP 34/100

I was stuck in a rut after the excitement of the Biennale.  Spent the next few months just not painting and feeling miserable.   Decided it was time to learn new skills and started work on some incomplete exercises.  I guess I’ve been in chunking mode for a few months now.

Some more KMP’s.  The ones above were made after viewing two of Peggi Kroll-Roberts videos.  I’m delighted with the content.  I have all six as they reminded me of the exercises in Charles Soveks book which I have long delayed working on.    You’ll be seeing more work based on these and other recently acquired (generous, supportive family : ) )  goodies in subsequent posts.

KMP 33/100  wip 1 KMP 33/100

KMP 31/100

KMP’s are skill building exercises advised by Kevin Macpherson in his book Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color. I started these in 2007 and am continuing with it in 2010. If you want to know more about this set of exercises click here.

Easier ways to make money

Publishing books to make money…………

is a little like hanging out in a singles bar if you want to get married.

It might work, but there are way better ways to accomplish your goal.  If you love writing or making music or blogging or any sort of performing art, then do it. Do it with everything you’ve got. Just don’t plan on using it as a shortcut to making a living. Seth Godin

KMP 29/100

KMP’s are skill building exercises advised by Kevin Macpherson in his book Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color. I started these in 2007 and am continuing with it in 2010. If you want to know more about this set of exercises click here.